Well, if you were to take a look at what could have been a "statement game" for the New England Patriots, this would have been the game.
The stage was set, Monday night football, national TV and a chance to knock off an unbeaten team in the New Orleans Saints.
But this did not happen.
If you watched the game, you saw a team struggling to find an identity against a powerful, fast and prolific offense. Drew Brees handled the Saints offense like the seasoned Pro Bowl quarterback that he is.
The New England Patriot defense did not have a single answer to the dangerous offensive schemes of the Saints. Receivers ran patterns getting wide open. New England defenders looked tired and at times even confused as to where to go on the field. This was one of the first times that the inexperience of the young defense showed through.
To state the perfectly obvious, coach Belichick remarked after the game; "Well, they were better than us in every phase of the game. I don't know any other way to put it. They were better coached. They played better on offense, defense, in the kicking game they covered better than we did."
Belichick's comments were painfully obvious in every facet of the game. The Patriots were never able to find a rhythm, offense, defense or special teams.
Sitting at 7-4, atop the AFC East, the Patriots need to take a look back at what they have done and who they have beaten. They need to find a way to draw on the positives and fix the problems. With five games left, they don't have a lot of time to fix those problems
All night Monday you saw stats and numbers of how the Patriots have fared in road games this season. Quite frankly the best description of their raod performance is mediocre at best.
Two weeks ago when New England played the Indianapolis Colts and let a 17 point lead slip by in the fourth quarter, they actually outplayed the Colts almost the entire game until the end. Even in the loss, their performance could be considered a positive thing because it gave Patriots fans hope that their team and their young defense have a chance against anyone. All that ended on Monday night.
People that might not get a chance to watch the Saints that often, got to see a team that appears to be on a mission -- a mission to make it to the Super Bowl. The Saints had a perfect mix of offense and defense. This defense was stellar especially with players like Jonathan Vilma, Mike McKenzie and Darren Sharper.
Even the New Orleans Special teams delivered hard hits all over the field. They simply outplayed the Patriots in all aspects of the game.
Patriots' receiver Randy Moss described the defeat best after the game.
"We got our butts beat by what, 21 or something like that," Moss said. "I don't even know the score, but I know it was a bad one. You really can't let a team like that take advantage of missed opportunities."
So, now the Patriots get to lick their wounds from losing two out of the last three to really good teams (both undefeated) and direct their focus on the Miami Dolphins. The Miami game is a huge divisional contest, which could solidify the Patriots' lead in the division and (hopefully) position them for the playoffs.
If they turn in another performance like the one on Monday night, all those playoff bets are off.
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